WERRRK.com has proudly partnered up with the Austin International Drag Festival this year and we have been given the privilege of announcing this year’s headliners first! We are so excited about being a part of this amazing event this year and we cannot wait to bring you all the fabulous drag artists that are going to be headlining this year!
We are very excited to announce that Ryan Stecken will be headlining the Austin International Drag Festival this year! (Get your tickets here and join us in Austin this fall!)
Congratulations Ryan on being named a headliner! How did you get involved with the Austin International Drag Festival and what does this opportunity mean to you?
Thank you! It’s been so long since my first time at Drag Fest that I honestly don’t even remember how I found out about it. I probably saw people posting about it on social media and applied. This was back in 2016. It was such a big deal for me when I got accepted that first year. I’d never performed in drag outside of Germany before and it has completely changed my life! I had been struggling with my drag identity at the time because my drag didn’t fit any labels (still doesn’t). I was the only actively performing drag king at the time and had to figure everything out by myself. When I started really developing my drag character and experimenting with drag that went beyond just attempting male illusion (and which inevitably turned into the #dragalienclownslut i am today) I received a lot of criticism because no one in Germany understood my drag. I was told to just go back to being a drag king and that what I was doing was “too much.” I was struggling to find my place and when I came to Austin I found it. People GOT what i was doing. People appreciated my art and I found people just like me! Austin is where I found my family. That first year in Austin the Garbage Family was formed – a collective of very different drag performers from all over the world.
Being the first German performer at Austin Drag Fest has given me opportunities I’d never even dreamed of. Since my first drag fest I’ve performed all over the United States and UK in renowned queer establishments and alongside big names in the drag world and I have met countless people that have grown close to my heart. Being allowed to come back as a headliner a second time is such a huge honor and I hope to be able to live up to everyone’s expectations and to give back as much as i possibly can. Austin Drag Fest isn’t just a gig to me. It’s a family reunion. Every year I look forward to that one week where all my favorite people are all at the same place and I can just let go of all my worries for a second and just be the garbage bag that I am.
For those people living under a rock, can you tell us a little bit about Ryan Stecken and your drag?
Political drag is a big thing in Germany. It’s not just about earning money and looking beat to the Gods, it’s about looking trashy and provoking a conversation. Berlin especially has a very rich political drag history. That’s where my roots are. When I first started I didn’t even know there was such a thing as (PAID) drag shows! Then I went on national television and ended up in the top 30 of German Idol. This opened the door to everything I’ve done since. I’ve managed to find a good balance between activism and not starving with gigs all over the world (most recently Seoul, South Korea!). But I still try to stay true to my political roots. When the attack on Pulse Nightclub happened another drag queen and I organized a huge vigil with around 6500 attendees in front of the Brandenburg gate, where the gate was lit up in the colors of the rainbow flag for the first time in history (hey, go big or go home, amirite?).
Performance wise I am a living contradiction. I look like I am about to possess some poor child but then go ahead and sing some tear-jerking ballad. I used to struggle with the divide between my aesthetic and performance but I’ve learned to embrace it. I am a pure live singer, I cannot dance or lipsync to save my life (not that I’d ever need to considering my kind is not allowed on a certain show where this skill would come in handy). I am known for conveying emotion by just standing there and singing. Let’s not call it lack of body coordination, let’s call it intentional minimalism.
We can’t wait to see what you’re planning on bringing to the stage in Austin! Can you give the WERRRK .com universe a little tease of what’s to come this fall in Texas?
I’m gonna stand there and sing. Jokes aside, the Garbage Family will be back with a showcase featuring headliners and family members May May Graves, Dis Charge, Complete Destruction, Emma Sis, Alexandria van Cartier and yours truly – we’re gonna have a little bit of everything – live singing, lipsync, dance, comedy, costumes, demonic possession… I will be showcasing some original work that has been written especially for me. Also there will be dancing (!!!) and of course some of my signature emotional pieces. Better grab your tissues. And maybe some holy water.